News / Africa

Ivory Coast’s 'iPad Government' Embraces New Media

Ivory Coast's internationally recognized President Alassane Ouattara (L) uses an iPad prior to attending African Union talks in Addis Ababa, March 10, 2012.
Ivory Coast's internationally recognized President Alassane Ouattara (L) uses an iPad prior to attending African Union talks in Addis Ababa, March 10, 2012.
Anne Look
Social networking sites and online innovation are changing the face of government, activism and business in Ivory Coast and throughout Africa. 

They are called the iPad government.  Ivory Coast's ministers take notes and send e-mails on their touchscreen tablet computers during weekly cabinet meetings.  They share and access documents through an online portal.  The government is going paperless.

Ministers are encouraged to blog, Facebook and tweet regularly.  Many of them actually do.

Guillaume Soro, currently the president of the National Assembly, is launching his own android/iPhone application.  Social media has been key to Soro's rebranding from a rebel leader to a serious politician with aspirations on the presidential palace.

Youth minister Alain Lobognon said it's about reaching citizens by whatever means possible.  And, when nearly four out of five of those citizens are under the age of 35, social networking sites are a natural choice.

The population, he says, needs to know the truth about incorrect information.  If you are not fast, he says, rumors get going and can do real damage.  Ivory Coast doesn't have a dedicated 24/7 news channel.  The state media broadcasts at 8 p.m. but by then, it can be too late. 

Instant reaction

Social media sites, like Twitter, he says, allow the government to react almost instantly to news, rumors or criticism.

Lobognon says he can send as many as 100 tweets a day -- the short 144-character messages posted to Twitter, a kind of global online chat board.  He tweets on ministry initiatives but also exchanges with constituents and replies personally to private messages.

It's good leadership, Lobognon says, but it's also good politics.

He says a Facebook or Twitter account is like instantly filling a room with 5,000 people, if you have for example, 5,000 subscribers.  Then, multiply that by 10, he says, for all your subscribers who will share or re-tweet your message and you have just reached as many as 50,000 people with the click of a button.

Could social media change the way Africans run for office?  Could the internet revolutionize the way Africans govern, find a job or even go to school?

Not yet, but that's the idea, say a group of young Ivorian e-entrepreneurs who get together most Thursday nights at a comedy club in Abidjan.

'Techies'

These young, self-professed techies are the best and brightest of the country's fledgling IT (information technology) sector.  They are programmers, strategists, designers.  They socialize amid the glow of blue screens as several tap away at their laptops or handheld tablets. 

Mohamed Diaby is director of an Abidjan marketing strategy firm, Waleya Hub, which organizes the meet-ups.  It also puts together seminars to teach "techies" how to market their ideas and young people how to use the internet.

It's a business, Diaby says, but it's also about creating "useful technology."

Technology, he says, can help Ivory Coast, and Africa, catch up when it comes to healthcare, education and other sectors.  It doesn't have all the solutions, he says, but it allows them to go faster, to skip steps along the way.  It's not just a race for money, he says.  It's a race to development.  The next step is getting the coming generation up to speed, he says, and then this will explode.

Many, like Diaby, moved back home to Ivory Coast after training and working abroad, pillars of the so-called African "brain gain."

This group of people, he says, has been around for about four years, but it was the crisis that really united them as a community.  The next step is for them to monetize their ideas, to be able to earn a living with their expertise and then ultimately take their creations to the world market.

'Testing ground'

The crisis he is referring to is the 2010 - 2011 post-election conflict that killed 3,000 people in Ivory Coast.  The tragedy proved to be a technological testing ground.

A group of programmers had already set up a site to map what was happening during the election and created the twitter hash tag #CIV2010.  Hash tags are a searchable way for people to label their tweets.  It, and other Ivorian hash tags, became sources of up-to-the minute information on news and violence.

Blogger and IT consultant, Cryriac Gbogou, says they also created the hash tag #CIVsocial to help people stranded in their homes by the fighting.

He says people could post when they, or someone they knew, needed food or help getting to a hospital.  He said they would connect that person with help or supply it themselves.  The initiative, he says, saved 82 people and resulted in two successful births done by phone with doctors talking women through the labor and delivery.

The aims of these IT inventors aren't entirely altruistic.  They do also need to make money.  The challenge now, they say, is how to do that in a country where just a tenth of the population is online and internet scams have made e-commerce near impossible.  The country is blacklisted on sites like PayPal.  DSL connections at around $60 per month are too expensive for most families.

Innovation must often precede infrastructure, they say.  They hope to create the demand that will drive the investment.

You May Like

Photogallery Pistorius Sentenced, Taken to Prison

Pistorius, convicted of culpable homicide in shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, will likely serve about 10 months of five-year sentence, before completing it under house arrest More

UN to Aid Central Africa in Polio Vaccinations

Synchronized vaccinations will be conducted after Cameroon reports a fifth case of the wild polio virus in its territory More

WHO: Ebola Vaccine May Be in Use by Jan.

WHO assistant director Dr. Marie Paule Kieny says clinical trials of Ebola vaccines are underway or planned in Europe, US and Africa More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid